Cold, hard, health cash?  BYU study finds avoiding COVID-19 without cash was ‘useless’

Cold, hard, health cash? BYU study finds avoiding COVID-19 without cash was ‘useless’

Liz Atkinson, manager of the Quicksilver Outlets store on Traverse Mountain in Lehi, is clearing a terminal after a deal on May 1, 2020. Many businesses have begun encouraging plastic debit and credit card transactions as a security measure to combat the outbreak. COVID -19. Now, a study by the BYU says that plastic payment cards are actually worse for carrying coronavirus than cash and coins. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Estimated reading time: 5-6 minutes

PROVO – The pandemic has changed many daily activities, including the way we pay for goods and services.

Many businesses have begun encouraging transactions with plastic debit and credit cards as a security measure to combat the spread of the new coronavirus. Ultimately, it makes sense that paying with plastic cards is healthier, as cash handles many different hands during their lifetime, while plastic cards are usually handled only by the cardholder.

Now, a new study from Brigham Young University, first published in PLOS ONE in late January, found that the virus could not survive on paper bills and actually showed more stability on plastic credit or debit cards.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we had this mass outcry for businesses to stop using cash; all of these businesses just followed that advice and said, ‘Okay, we’re only on credit card,'” said study author Richard Robison. Professor BYU. microbiology and molecular biology. “I thought, ‘Wait a minute, where is the data that supports this?’ And it just didn’t exist. “We decided to see if it made sense or not, and it turned out not to be.”

To conduct the study, the research team – consisting of BYU professor Julianne Grose and BYU undergraduate students – collected banknotes, quadrants, pens and plastic cards, which were then inoculated with the COVID-caused virus 19. Cash, coins, and cards were then sampled and tested for virus detection at four different time points: 30 minutes, four hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours.

What they found effectively dispelled the idea that plastic cards were a safer means of payment than cash.

The team found that the coronavirus was difficult to detect on dollar bills just 30 minutes after it was placed there. The study found that the virus was reduced by 99.9993% in 30 minutes. At 24 and 48 hours, the team did not find any live virus in the banknotes.

Even more surprisingly, the researchers found that the virus was reduced by only 90% on plastic cards in 30 minutes. The reduction rate increased to 99.6% in the four hours and to 99.96% in the 24 hours.

However, the live virus was still detectable – albeit slightly – on the money cards 48 hours later. The coins performed similarly to plastic cards, with a strong initial reduction in the presence of the virus, but are still positive for the live virus after 24 and 48 hours.

In fact, cash and coins have proven to be a safer, healthier payment method than plastic cards.

To further substantiate its findings, the team collected fresh samples of $ 1 notes, quadrants and pen from BYU campus and local restaurants to test for the virus. Within an hour of obtaining the money, the researchers cleaned the surfaces and edges of the cash and coins with a sterile cotton swab.

They also searched a collection of money cards and found “no SARS-CoV-2 RNA on banknotes or coins and only a low level of virus on the money cards,” a BYU press release said.

“This pandemic was notorious for people making decisions without data,” Robison said. “We have these people who are just saying things and huge numbers of organizations are just following it blindly with no data. It turns out that in this case they were just going in the wrong direction.”

When all was said and done, the study authors concluded that the use of credit and debit cards against cash as a COVID-19 prevention measure is not recommended.

Go to no cash?

In 2019, before COVID-19 hit the US, the Vivint Smart Home Arena, home of the Utah Jazz, moved to a cashless payment system for all arena transactions to “improve service speed and improve the fan experience” “, said a statement from Vivint. .

In January 2020, initial tests of the cashless environment revealed that cashless transactions resulted in a 10% to 30% reduction in time spent on concessions.

“Vivint Arena has had a very successful transition to a cashless digital environment over the last three seasons,” said arena spokesman Frank Zang. From digital tickets to arena entrances and on-site Jazz merchandise deliveries to mobile food and beverage orders, guests have adopted this approach that results in faster service, less queuing time and smoother transactions. “

Although the decision to switch to a cashless system at Vivint Arena was not pushed by the pandemic, Zang said the move has increased efficiency and that there are no plans to return to accepting cash payments.

“Vivint Arena is committed to a cashless experience,” Zang said.

For cash-only guests at Vivint Arena, there are five card booths located throughout the main hall and the America First Atrium. There is no charge for using the machines, which will convert cash into a prepaid Mastercard debit card that can be used anywhere inside or outside the arena.

A survey by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. found that 2.5% of Utah households do not have access to a bank account, let alone a debit or credit card, leaving them to rely solely on cash and raising concerns about stock issues that could come from more companies moving in a cashless model.

“You are leaving, not a huge part of our population, but some of the most vulnerable in our entire state behind,” said Clint Cottam, executive director of the Utah Community Action Partnership.

Under state law, Utah businesses have the ability to accept any form of payment and do not need to accept cash. However, Utah Treasurer David Damsen said: “No business succeeds by operating entirely against what its consumers demand, need or want.”

Logan Stefanich is a reporter for KSL.com, covering southern Utah communities, education, business, and military news.

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